Reaction to the Madison Bumgarner Injury
On their last day in Arizona for Spring Training, the San Francisco Giants were poised to play nine more solid innings against the Kansas City Royals before flying home to begin the season. The team had been enjoying a relatively strong spring, but something happened early in Friday’s game that changed all that. Disaster struck the Giants when their ace, Madison Bumgarner, was struck on the left hand by a comebacker.
As the ball came flying toward him, he blocked it with the palm of his left hand in an act of self defense. The ball stuck his hand, and broke his hand, specifically, he fractured his fifth metacarpal. The team trainer then came from the dugout and immediately removed Bumgarner from the game. Bumgarner then went to the doctor, who diagnosed the injury and now the pitcher will have to undergo surgery to have pins put in his hand, which creates a 6-8 week timetable for his return.
Bumgarner was in the midst of a dominant spring, posting some incredible numbers, one of the most impressive being that he struck out 27 batters in just over 19 innings. He will now be sidelined for the beginning of the season, which could spell certain doom for the Giants. This was also the second loss of a starting pitcher in as many days for the Giants, who lost Jeff Samardzija with a strained pectoral muscle that will sideline him for over a month.
The starting rotation for the Giants now only has one proven starter instead of the three that it had merely days ago. Johnny Cueto is the only proven veteran starter left in the rotation, and he is coming off of one of, if not the, worst years of his career. The rotation will not consist of Cueto, who is looking to have a solid bounce-back year, Chris Stratton, Ty Blach, and Derek Holland. Stratton is a young pitcher who saw some success late in the season last year, but is still unproven. Blach has had his moments with the big league club, but has struggled with consistency. Derek Holland is a veteran who is coming off of a disastrous campaign for the Chicago White Sox.
The Giants still have a very solid starting lineup, complete with the additions of Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria, as well as a bullpen with some very solid pieces. However, like many Giants fans, I am panicking. Does this injury to Madison Bumgarner spell certain doom to this team that was looking to get one last championship run out of its’ core? Not necessarily, but it very well be possible that the 2018 San Francisco Giants are doomed for another disastrous season like last year.
While the team did have a terrible year last year, and many attribute that to the loss of Madison Bumgarner and his dreaded dirt bike, the team was still losing more games than they were winning before he went down. Now, his injury certainly didn’t help the team, and they continued to sink to the bottom faster than an anchor in a bathroom sink. This year could be different hough, for a variety of reasons. I will still hold out hope for a playoff run despite all the early adversity because even I am not a smart man. I also held out hope last year for a very long time, but this year feels different.
The Giants now have a competent defense, which they did not have last year. This will make life easier for the pitchers that we still have, which is key. Last year, the pitching staff couldn’t trust the defense, but now the defense appears to be revamped and injected with the right pieces to be successful. The Giants offense appears to also be much better than it was last year, and we can thank the front office for the additions Andrew McCutchen, Evan Longoria, and Austin Jackson. If the offense can start the year off on a hot streak, and continue to flash some of the power that it displayed in the Spring, then the Giants could potentially weather the storm until Bumgarner returns.
There are also several options available for outside help in terms of the starting rotation. Bartolo Colon was released by the Texas Rangers, and he was pitching pretty well in Spring Training. He threw 18 innings while striking out 10 batters, had an ERA of 3.00, and his WHIP was 1.17. The New York Mets have a surplus of starters who could potentially be moved for the right piece, like Chris Shaw, who is blocked at first base by Brandon Belt. The Mets are currently set up to have Adrian Gonzalez play first base, and he is a shell of his former self. I would imagine that the Mets would be overjoyed to have a 24-year old power-hitter there instead of the fossil that is Gonzalez. The Giants sent the Mets Zack Wheeler in the summer of 2011 for Carlos Beltran, and that didn’t work out too well. Zack Wheeler just found himself demoted to AAA after having a pretty poor spring, but maybe he needs a change of scenery after it appears the Mets have passed him by.
The Giants still boast a solid bullpen that is full of guys who have the potential to be above-average to very good for a team that has a lead after the fifth inning. Mark Melancon had a few strong outings this spring, Josh Osich has like he did in his rookie year, and Hunter Strickland has been downright filthy all spring. What the team really needs is for the relatively unproven starting pitchers to be able to pitch five solid innings a game, or pitch well enough to let the offense put up enough runs to keep them into the game. If the starters can turn the ball over to the bullpen with a lead or with the game close, then I am confident that the team can play at least .500 ball until Bumgarner returns.
Do I think that this injury spells certain doom for the 2018 San Francisco Giants? No. Is it possible that this team will now be just as bad, if not worse, than they were last year? Yes. I think that this injury might be disastrous, but also might be a blessing in disguise. The Giants now are going to have to throw several young pitchers directly into the line of fire, and maybe they can step up and prove themselves to be reliable starters, which can only benefit the team down the stretch. The Giants are definitely in a bad position right now, but the Baseball season is long, and I refuse to bury this team before they have had a chance to show me what they can do.